Monday, April 11, 2011

C.H.O.C.O.L.A.T.E. for the Post-Contest Blues

Pepper here - so get ready for a LOOOOONG  post.
It's a good day for encouragement, especially since Genesis semi-final news came out on Friday.

If you have 5 minutes, get some chocolate for your heart.

C – Cry – Proverbs 13:12 -Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.  
It’s your story, you can cry if you want to.  Being upset, confused, disillusioned, and disappointed is part of the contest circuit. After all, we’re sending out our little babies into the war – judges carrying red pens to possibly scar our flawless novels. Scary! Been there more times than I have fingers. It’s a part of the learning curve for writers. But remember good judges have preferences, styles, experiences, and points of view from which they score your manuscript – and each one can be VERY different. Just this weekend, on the manuscript I THOUGHT would final but DIDN’T, I received two similar scores and then one that had a 40 point score discrepancy. WHOA! That’s a big difference.

H- Hold Back – Ecclesiastes 8:1 - There's nothing better than being wise, Knowing how to interpret the meaning of life. Wisdom puts light in the eyes, And gives gentleness to words and manners.
Don’t start blaming others or yourself. ‘Hold Back’ from reacting in a negative way that could give others a bad impression of you. People respond in different ways over contest results. Instead of plotting novels, some start plotting ways to squish the judges. Don’t waste all your creative energy on something as useless as THAT. Also, ‘hold back’ from thinking you are the WORST WRITER EVER. It’s a contest, not a degree from college. This one moment in time does not define you as a writer. It didn’t cost you enough money to have that kind of power over you J

O – Others – Proverbs 27:9 - 9 Just as lotions and fragrance give sensual delight,
a sweet friendship refreshes the soul

One of the best cures for disappointment is finding someone who will listen. Someone who has been through the same thing and understands. My writing buddies, especially Sherrinda, Casey, Mary, K. Dawn Byrd, and the Seekers have been a massive encouragement to me when I didn’t final in the Genesis last year, and didn’t place in 2 other contests either. Knowing they had worked through similar discouragement, grown, and even gotten published gave me the courage to lift my head, stop wallowing in self-pity (mostly), and try again.

C – Chocolate – Do I really need to explain this one? Isaiah 55:1 (taken totally out of context) Why do you spend your money on junk food, your hard-earned cash on cotton candy? Listen to me, listen well: Eat only the best, fill yourself with only the finest. J

0 – Optimism/Humor –Proverbs 12:24 - Worry weighs us down; a cheerful word picks us up.
Proverbs 17:22 - Laughter is good medicine. Seriously. J And for the disillusioned heart, it can be a good source of healing. Perspective changes everything. The trip is always longer when you focus on how long it is, instead of focusing on the destination. Finding humor or joy in the middle of discouragement is the key to climbing from the mire and back onto the playing field. God loves humor, btw, he made a donkey TALK!

L – Learn – Proverbs 18:15 - Wise men and women are always learning, always listening for fresh insights.

I know, some of you may think you’ve reached the state of perfection, but I’m pretty sure our glorified bodies are only meant for post-mortem experiences. As you read through edits or critiques, or judge’s comments, take the opportunity to prayerfully consider them. Grow as a writer.  And while you prepare for your next contest or submission – study and learn. There are plenty of resources out there.
A – Attitude – Philippians 2:13 Do everything readily and cheerfully—no bickering, no second-guessing allowed! Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God.

Much like ‘O for Optimism’, your attitude and determination about growing as a writer will help you put contest scores into perspective. Will you be bummed? Mad? Probably, but then what? Though anger might feel like a good starting point for growing (using all that energy it provides), you fizzle out pretty fast if that’s the only motivator. Something deeper inside you has to push you forward from one contest, or one story, to the next. An inner drive? A passion? A calling? Personally, for me- I feel God’s called me to this writing gig. And who He calls, he also equips. My mantra: God’s timing, my perseverance.

T – Time – Psalm 37:18 - God keeps track of the decent folk; what they do won't soon be forgotten. In hard times, they'll hold their heads high; when the shelves are bare, they'll be full.
The phrase ‘time heals all wounds’ applies here fairly well. It certainly doesn’t apply across the board, but in contests…yeah. Again, perspective. As I distanced myself from the disappointment and judges’ comments, I was able to read them from a fresh perspective. Take the good. Toss the bad. Pray – and read them again.

E – Enter –Psalm 31:24 – Be brave. Be strong. Don't give up. Expect God to get here soon.  
Don’t give up. Try again. Whether it’s reentering a contest, submitting to an agent, or hoping an editor will take notice of your work – one failure or rejection is just another step toward publication. Submitting is hard.
But there is valuable information waiting on the other end of the ‘submission’ button – maybe even a win or a contract.
Ruth Logan Herne once said – if you don’t try, you’ll fail 100% of the time.
(The picture to the right is in honor of Annabelle Phillips, who received a new heart Saturday night. She and her family have been brave and strong for a long time. Praise God)

Keep writing.

Keep dreaming.

Keep trying.

The perfect dessert for the writer’s soul.

Bible references take from The Message paraphrase

pictures courtesy of


Katie Ganshert said...

Great post Pepper. I posted today about my own experience with the Genesis contest. I hope it encourages those who didn't final. I entered in 2009 and 2010. I never finaled either of those years. But I got an agent in 2009 (Rachelle Gardner) and a 2 book deal in 2010 (with Waterbrook Multnomah). Hoping that brings some hope to those who are feeling blue.

Congrats on your double semi-final!

Pepper said...

Hey Katie,
I'll have to check out your post. And SOOOO happy about your contract. That is super-awesome. Which story?

Beth K. Vogt said...

You're last point sums it up: Don't give up. Keep on trying. We may have to do all those other things (cry, hold back, find someone who will listen) to get to the point where we want to try again--but if we give ourselves a day, or two, or three--the "want to" will reappear.

Caroline said...

Great post, Pepper, funny, yet appropriate. Thanks.

Casey said...

Encouraging post, Pepper! I know I'll probably be feeling a good bit of these emotions when I get my Frasier contest entry back. Too bad you could avoid all these emotions when we get a contest entry back. :-/

Oh btw, love the choco fountain. And the heart. SWEET! ;-)

Pepper said...

It's all about getting back on our 'writing' feet, isn't it? Natasha Kern just sent me an email that said "Anything worth doing is worth doing badly at first!!!!!!!!"


Pepper said...

Thanks, Caroline.

Pepper said...

You have a lot of both 'O's to keep your spirits up. Others and Optimism.

Keli Gwyn said...

What great points, Pepper. Early in my writing journey when I was writing in isolation with my monthly copy of Romance Writers Report my only link to the writing world, I sent out 37 entries but only managed to final eight times. I dealt with a lot of disappointment--and reams of contest feedback. (This was back in the days before most contests had gone electronic.)

I Cried. Yes, I'm one of those weepy women who sheds tears easily. After that I took Time to let the emotions bleed off, performed an Attitude adjustment, and returned to my writing determined to Learn all I could about craft.

Although wading through all that feedback was tough at the time, I'm grateful for it. I've often said my contest judges taught me how to write. I thank them for the time they took to help a florescent green newbie grow.

I had fun happy dancing with the semi-finalists Friday, but I know there are many entrants who are hurting, and I offer them cyber (((hugs))).

Sarah Forgrave said...

Awesome post, Pepper! You know it's just what I needed this week. Now if only I could turn my laptop into chocolate...

Joanne Sher said...

What a fabulous post, Pepper. I need each of these things. I was bummed for about a day about my Genesis entry - but I KNOW it's not perfect. SO looking forward to the feedback (and hoping I don't have a 40-point discrepancy! WOW). Moving on.

Angie Dicken said...

Chocolate applies to EVERYTHING. :) Great post Pepper!

Faith Hope and Cherrytea said...

FaB post! thank you~ luving the creativity :)

Pepper said...

37 entires in one year? Keli, you are my new hero! Wow!

Pepper said...

Oh Sarah, how much work would we get done with a chocolate keyboard.

Casey said...

Yes I surely do! :)

Pepper said...

Great attitude, Joanne.
Your reaction is a lot like Alley Cat- Mary. She took that feedback at momentum forward.

Way to go!

Pepper said...

Still dancin' for you, my dear. Will we get a chance to see you in September???!!!???

And I agree with you wholeheartedly. Chocolate applies to everything. I think I should do a series on how that is true! :-)

Mary Connealy said...

Angie, Chocolate Applies to Everything--- should be the brand name of a chocolate fountain don't you think?

You know, I'm always giving advice. People ask me for advice. And I just open my mouth and give it.
I think it's an occupational hazard of motherhood.

So here goes.

You need to be tough to be a writer. There is so much joy but also a lot of pain and struggle. All these critiques, losses, rejections, well, they toughen you up.
I know a few....very few....authors who have gotten the first thing they've ever written published and it's so shocking to them when the next sale doesn't come or the harsh reviews on Amazon or the unkind emails telling you you're a heathen sinner for letting your character be sarcastic while she's digging her third worthless husband's grave. (okay, that might've been a little sinful, she was enjoying her husband's demise a bit too much)

But all these rejections make you tough. Teach you to get back up when you've been knocked down. Recover and move on.

Think of it as a refining fire.

Or think of it as me trying to rationalize away the pain!!!!!!!

And, as always, remember I may not know what I'm talking about.

Pepper said...

Faith Hope Cherrytea (cherry tea sounds delightful, btw)

Thanks for stopping by.

Pepper said...

I'm always taking your advice.
I wonder what that means?!? ;-)

And - I LOVE Belle Tanner's sarcasm. Sure shootin' she was sarcastic! Talk about TOUGH!

Okay, now I'm going to invision Belle Tanner on my shoulder (in Mary's voice) giving me writing directions.

Julie Lessman said...

WONDERFUL POST, PEP, and soooo timely for so many people, myself included. As far as I'm concerned, chocolate and prayer are my two #1 one fixes ... uh, not in that order, however ... :)

And I am SOOO tickled for sweet Annabelle and keeping the prayers coming, Krista.


Wendy Paine Miller said...

Pepper, Congratulations! And what great verses with beautiful applications. Laughter is such good medicine. Laughed a lot with friends today and my soul feels lighter.
~ Wendy

Julia said...


I LOVE this post. Others are such a big help and God brings the encouragement in just the right time when we face rejection, doesn't He?

Pepper said...

Chocolate and Prayer, Jules (not in that particular order) :-)
Or chocolate while praying...hmmm, that could get messy.
Dancin' with you on Annabelle's good news!! Praise God!

Pepper said...

Aren't friends wonderful?!?
Laughter too.
Ranks right up there with prayer and chocolate :-)

Pepper said...

I'm so glad He's right on time. He knows our hearts and what we need.

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Hey! I made it to the party. Is there any chocolate left? Oh wait...I can't. Went to the doctor today and she made me buy a scale, a blood pressure cuff, and gave me a prescription. I'm way to young, right?

So now I will be a good girl and just partake of the virtual kind. Yesssss!

Your post were so good and perfect for all of us!

Carol Moncado said...

Chocolate? I need some of that and it has nothing [or not much] to do with Genesis results. I'm actually doing much, much better with that than I would have anticipated.

I can honestly say CONGRATS!!!!!!!!!!!!!! to those who won. I held my head high when I announced my lack of semifinalness to Julie Klassen at a book signing on Saturday. And still proudly proclaimed my author status.

So some of it was a front. But a good one. That I couldn't have pulled off until recently. And proof the skin is getting a bit thicker ;).

At least until the score sheets are returned...

Thanks Pepper! Wonderful post [like anything with that much chocolate wouldn't be ;)]!!


Pepper said...

From reading your comments on Seekerville and now here on The Alley - I'm pretty sure you're a kindred spirit.

email me some time and we can chat about contests, chocolate, and being moms. Not in that particular order.